There is a trend in the business world that’s causing CEOs to take notice. What workers want and even expect from their jobs goes beyond pay, insurance, promotions, and flexible hours.
“People are looking for purpose,” says Amy Klein, CEO of VolunteerConnect. “They want to make an impact in their community and they want to know that their company stands for something. They want to connect on a deeper level. I see this across the board: millennials, retirees, people in mid-career change, and people currently employed.”
Klein says the desire to serve one’s community is shared by many company owners and managers. It is a value-added that they can offer to recruits or employees and to the town where they are located.
This is good news for Klein, who helps nonprofit leaders meet their strategic planning goals by bringing them together with professionals who wish to use their skills and backgrounds to serve causes they believe in.
Klein, who has worked with Volunteer Connect since 2011, will receive the Community Leader of the Year award from the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce at the upcoming annual Business Leadership Awards gala. Tim Moonan of the Hibbert Group will receive the Innovator of the Year award; Doug Borden and Jeff Perlman of Borden Perlman Salsbury & Kelly will receive the Business Leader award; and Jeanne and Frank Cretella of Landmark Hospitality will receive the Entrepreneur award.
The gala takes place Wednesday, November 29, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Jasna Polana. For more information or to register, visit the Chamber website at www.princetonchamber.org or call 609-924-1776.
VolunteerConnect works with individuals, corporations, and nonprofits. The organization provides training for those interested in becoming board members through a program titled “BoardConnect,” and it offers a matching service for those who want to volunteer their professional skills in a day-long or longer-term project.
BoardConnect training is offered at its Princeton facility on Stockton Street and at corporate locations. Participants learn about governance, legal roles, fiduciary responsibilities, advocacy, and fundraising. Upon completing the training, Klein hosts a meet & greet nonprofit fair where graduates are introduced to community groups seeking trustees. “So far we’ve matched about 70 graduates with nonprofits,” she says. VolunteerConnect has completed successful training programs for NRG, Stark & Stark, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
Alumni have become board members for a variety of groups working for social change, including the Arts Council of Princeton, Campfire NJ, Dress for Success, Easel Animal Rescue, Enable, HomeFront, Interfaith Caregivers, Kidsbridge, LALDEF, Mill Hill Child & Family Development, One Simple Wish, Princeton Blairstown Center, Princeton Nursery School, Sourland Conservancy, and Trenton Music Makers.
Pam Gregory, president and CEO of Princeton-Blairstown Center, has written about the importance of having educated and talented board members: “I know first-hand that you can have the best mission in the world but that without talented, dedicated, and well-trained board members, you will never be truly successful in advancing your mission. In Mercer County we are very fortunate to have an organization that helps us move our nonprofit organizations forward in a very significant way — VolunteerConnect.”
Those who want to volunteer their professional skills for a day-long or longer-term project can offer their services through a corporate program or directly through VolunteerConnect online (www.volunteerconnectnj.org) by signing up and entering the skills they can offer.
Working directly with nonprofits, VolunteerConnect helps launch skills-based projects by defining the professional expertise required (such as accounting, marketing, strategic planning, graphic design, or facilities operations). Through SkillsConnect, the organization then recruits appropriate volunteers to assist with these projects.
For nonprofit leaders, VolunteerConnect offers professional development opportunities, including workshops and quarterly forums. The next forum, “Building Media Relations to Further Your Mission Message,” takes place in January.
Klein traces her interest in volunteerism back to her childhood in Palm Springs, California. Her father was a cardiologist, and her mother was a psychologist/therapist who worked with incest survivors. Her mother was active as a community volunteer and included young Klein in her activities whenever she could. “I give mom full credit for influencing my decision to become involved with volunteering,” she says.
Klein earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles, married, and raised two children. She was introduced to VolunteerConnect through her community work in New Jersey while being a stay-at-home mom.
At the time Klein joined VolunteerConnect, the organization (originally named Hands On Helpers) had transitioned from being mainly an online volunteer matching service to one that included and focused on training and professional development. The organization continued to evolve, and Klein became the key person in the process of matching skilled volunteers with organizations that have specific professional needs.
Klein says one thing that led her to join VolunteerConnect stems from a past experience when she had been invited to join a board. She was flattered but had no idea what it would entail, so she declined the offer. If she had fully understood the opportunity she had been offered, she says now, she would have joined.
Nonprofits often have a need for skilled volunteers and knowledgeable board members but don’t have the staff and don’t have the money to hire consultants. That’s where Klein and her team can help. Working alongside of Klein is director of programs Nina Magariello, who focuses on the strategic needs of nonprofits.
Klein is also on the advisory board of RSVP of Mercer County and sits on committees with the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce and Princeton Community Works.
A Princeton Chamber member recently asked Klein to name the person she would have dinner with if she could choose anyone she admired. Her answer: Jane Goodall, because she is an advocate for the planet who maintains that every individual has a role to play and every individual can make a difference.
“My tagline is ‘passion, purpose, partnership,’” says Klein.